Monday, December 22, 2014

A Call for Sanity as We Mourn Two of New York's Finest

David Kattner, a 26 year veteran of the Dallas police department was arrested Sunday for sexual assault.

Officer Aaron Rodarte, was arrested for DWI and evading arrest.

Officer Julian Harris was arrested for felony domestic assault.

Dallas police officers provide free tickets for Slurpees at 7-11 'caught' for doing good deeds.

Officer Eric Hearn holds and comforts a baby while a citizen has a tire changed.

A Plano officer stopped a man for an expired car registration sticker. The 25 year old husband and father, said he had no excuse, he just didn't have the money to pay for the sticker. The officer wrote out the citation for the young man and handed it to him. When the young man opened the ticket, he saw the police officer had included a $100 dollar bill.

Which one of these officers is representative of the departments from which they come? I would argue all of them. Police officers do not come from some strange planet. They are not constructed in a laboratory. They come from among us. And, all things being equal, they have the same vices and virtues that all of us have. And while they have the same virtues the authority they carry with the badge means that they are held all the more accountable when the exhibit their vices.

Two policemen were tragically murdered in New York City. They were shot and killed by their assailant, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, as they sat in their patrol car. Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu the two victims, also became symbols for those who wish to delegitimize the protests surrounding what many believe to be racialized shootings of unarmed black men across the country.

First, their efforts came in assailing the character of those who had been killed. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford have had their names smeared as miscreants and ne'er do wells. Either hardened criminals (for shoplifting in Michael Brown's case) or a practicing assassins (Tamir Rice, the 12 year old Cleveland boy shot to death by a police officer, as he brandished a toy gun). In almost every case the police officers were cleared by grand juries, hence the protests and riots across the country.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been maligned because of their involvement in these incidents. Seen as race baiters and trouble makers, just their very presence evokes cries of foul by observers who seem not to know that Jackson and Sharpton don't just 'show up'. They are asked in by the families of the deceased victims. And it is also the height of insult to suggest that blacks would not be aggrieved if neither Jackson or Sharpton told them to be.

Some misguided soul on Facebook, took the time to list (from about 1997 on) a number of murders committed by blacks which hadn't received national attention! Could it be that the reason why he was so easily able to get those names had to do with the fact that their victims had achieved justice by their assailants arrests? He also conveniently forgot to let anyone know of the disposition of these cases regarding their guilt or innocence.

Still, on the flip side, there are those who have called for less policing. The problem, they say, is with the police themselves and this existence of a paramilitary force within our urban core. This is a totally insane idea! Black and brown people do commit crimes, and someone has to be on patrol to deal with those who are truly causing the problems which make our communities undesirable. I for one, would hate to live in a world where the presence of police officers were scarce and rare.

In fact the absence of police engagement can be seen in the violence caused by the rioting and looting in Ferguson, where some who lived in that city as well as those outside it, used Michael Brown's unfortunate death as an occasion to burn and loot their own neighborhoods.

We have to find answers to these problems and they cannot be found by blaming those whose lives have been torn apart by the deadly force used on unarmed victims and the anarchy imposed by citizens whether frustrated or opportunistic.

I think it begins with understanding that even if you believe that those officers who killed the four young men mentioned (as the many, many other killings by other officers), acted criminally, with criminal intent, they do not represent all policemen. The vast majority of police men and women are truly peace officers and committed to protecting and serving. They need our support. They need our cooperation. And every now and then it wouldn't hurt to show some appreciation. They know that their names are smeared every time an brother or sister officer goes rogue or when an unexplained and unexplainable violent act is perpetrated against a citizen. The good officers want the bad ones rooted out!

Secondly, those who defend every act of every police officer need to understand that police are not made. There is no law enforcement manufacturing equipment anywhere I know of. Our law enforcement officers come from among us. They are our  brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers. They have the same vices and virtues as the rest of us. Is it so hard to believe that some of them, in the exercise of their 'duty' intentionally - or in some rare cases 'unintentionally', go too far?
I celebrate the calls for accountability, but at the same time, I recognize that there are many, many good officers. I know some of them. Many of them are great church leaders, as well as fathers and mothers. They welcome the calls for accountability, and for trust between the police community and those who live in our urban areas, accountability there must be.

What's clear about the NYPD police murders is that the Brinsley was mentally deranged. There was nothing in anything he said about his motivation to kill police that should be taken seriously or attributed to the protests calling for reform. Those who say so are either trying to fan flames of racial hatred or possess irrational fears that need desperately to be worked out. Brinsley is like Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), or James Eagan Holmes (Aurora) a sick young man who visited his demons on two unsuspecting cops who were simply doing their jobs. To make more of it than that is to plant the seeds of the very violence you claim to fear.

No comments: